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Two People Arrested in Sniper Case in Maryland

Aired October 24, 2002 - 06:31   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: We want to bring you up-to-speed on the latest developments in the serial sniper case.
At least two men now in custody this morning in connection with that investigation. The men were found sleeping inside a car at an interstate highway rest stop in Maryland.

CNN has confirmed that the men are John Allen Muhammad and his 17-year-old stepson, John Lee Malvo, the subject of a nationwide search that began yesterday. Muhammad had been sought as a witness in this case.

Also, authorities in Tacoma, Washington yesterday searching the back yard of the duplex, where it's believed that the 42-year-old Muhammad once lived. Authorities hauled away a tree stump, and they think that tree stump may have been used for target practice. It, along with other evidence seized in that back yard, now on its way to Washington, D.C. to be searched through by investigators.

And also, yesterday federal authorities searching this property of a paramilitary training camp in Marion, Alabama. Ground Zero USA specializes in special weapons training.

And then finally, sources telling CNN that on Monday, authorities missed the man believed to be the sniper by just a matter of minutes at an Exxon gas station in Richmond, Virginia.

Well, as you may have seen this last hour here on CNN, Maryland State Police holding a news conference in the middle of the night on the arrests of two men at a Maryland rest stop.

Let's here what he had to say.


MAJ. GREG SHIPLEY, MARYLAND COUNTY POLICE: Shortly after 3:30 this morning, the tactical response team arrested two individuals from that vehicle, who were sleeping in the vehicle. They were taken into custody without incident.

They are described as African-American males, one approximately 20, one approximately 40. That's the only description we have at this point.


CALLAWAY: And now, those individuals are being questioned at the sniper headquarters. That's where we find our CNN's Patty Davis, in Montgomery County.

Patty -- are you there?

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, those individuals are being questioned somewhere here in Montgomery County. We are not being told where. It's not here though, that's for sure, because we would have seen a lot of activity if that was the case.

You know, one thing I think that this really shows, you were talking about the fact that the tip came from a motorist, an attendant there at that rest stop north of Washington, D.C. in Maryland in that Myersville exit, north of where these shootings have taken place.

It shows what Chief Moose has been saying all along: That they believe that this case was going to be solved with the help of citizens.

And indeed, just a little over an hour after Chief Moose broadcast that warrant for the arrest of John Allen Muhammad, also known as John Allen Williams, 42 years old; also looking for a juvenile believed to be with him, which we are told is John Lee Malvo, 17 years old. A little over an hour, someone ended up calling police and saying, we saw this 1990 blue Chevy Caprice with that license plate, the New Jersey license plate that you're looking for, and police were able to move in.

They established a perimeter, called the sniper task force, and the sniper task force, a couple of hours later then, arrested these two men sleeping in their car.

So, the importance here of citizens, if indeed these two do turn out to be the snipers in this case.

Now, of course, police saying as of this point, they just want to talk to these two men about what they may know. They consider them material witnesses in this case, not suspects.

We do expect to have a press conference, Catherine, here in Montgomery County at the sniper task force headquarters at some point today.

Now, we talked to police a little while ago, the public information people, who said it's going to be awhile. They still need to get a search warrant. They're in the process of doing that from a judge to be able to look at that 1990 Chevy Caprice, find out what's inside. They're very carefully guarding that car at this time.

But they don't want to make any mistakes here. If this turns out these people are connected to this case, they want to go by the book, because they will want to have an airtight prosecution if indeed these people turn out to be connected -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Amazing that this tipster, this motorist that called 911 to say that he spotted this vehicle, not only alerted police, but stayed at the rest stop, we are told, along with the state troopers, and waited for authorities to converge on the scene. A lot of questions we're going to have about that individual, and a very alert individual, making that phone call to police.

DAVIS: Absolutely. And in the press conference with the Maryland State Police, you heard a reporter asking, "Will that person get the reward money?" You know, that reward money is over $500,000 right now. And Greg Shipley, the police officer doing that press conference, saying he doesn't know.

Obviously, that person may be in line for some of that money if indeed this does lead to an arrest in connection with this case, but we don't know. It would be a nice surprise, wouldn't it, for that person?

CALLAWAY: Yes, it would be good for that person. Also, it would mean that the case would be close to being solved, which would be even better.

DAVIS: Absolutely.

CALLAWAY: But some disappointing news that during that news conference that a weapon had not been found. Of course, we do know that they're waiting for daylight and the warrant to search that vehicle, and I'm assuming will also search the area there around that rest stop.

DAVIS: Right. We don't know what those two individuals, these two men, were doing at the rest stop. We know they were sleeping. Where were they going? Why were they there at that point?

So, that's something police will want to know. You're right, absolutely. They'll want to know what's in that car. Are there any weapons in that car? Is there anything that could possibly connect them to this case? Or is there information that these two men might know in connection with who might be doing these killings?

Thirteen people shot so far, 10 of them dead, the latest just 48 hours ago here, back here in Montgomery County in the Aspen Hill section of Maryland, not far from where the first shootings took place.

Obviously, that was a real blow for Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, and the people in this community, who figured that the police presence was so heavy here now -- helicopters you hear flying over at all hours of the day and night, the Pentagon up in the air with its reconnaissance planes looking, searching for any evidence of guns being fired -- and the thought had been perhaps that this killer or killers had moved on.

Yet, this killing took place 48 hours ago at a bus stop, a bus driver slain, Conrad Johnson, 35 years old. Certainly, disheartening to police that this sniper was back, and they're certainly hoping that they may have a major break here -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Right, they are hoping. But they still aren't saying that these are the suspects in this sniper investigation. They just want to question them.

But, Patty, so many connections to the searches that took place yesterday all over the U.S. to these two individuals.

DAVIS: Right. And they are not calling them suspects; in fact at this point, just saying that they want to talk to them.

The one man, the older man, John Allan Muhammad, also John Allen Williams, was being sought Chief Moose came out last night saying on a federal firearms violation, in the company of a 17-year-old. We are now told this is his stepson, John Lee Malvo.

So, not saying that they are suspects, but certainly want to talk to them.

CALLAWAY: I am sure they do, and everyone else wants to hear what they have to say.

Patty Davis, thank you.

Possibly a big break in this three-week old sniper nightmare. Just three hours ago, police took into custody two men who had been the subject of a nationwide search, as we have told you.

And on the phone with us now, CNN security analyst, Kelly McCann.

Thank you for being with us this morning, and I'm sure you were up early this morning watching the developments in this case.

We're not hearing a lot, Kelly, from officials about the importance of these two individuals, but in light of what we saw take place yesterday, it does seem like a major break in the case.

J. KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, I think anything that has this amount of emphasis, and it was released in the manner it was, it can't not be of major interest.

But it's still a leap to assume anything, because as you have seen, and as we've covered, this has taken more turns than anybody ever imagined.

CALLAWAY: Perhaps it's just optimism on everyone's part that this may be coming to an end soon.

What are they going to be looking for, Kelly, when they search that vehicle?

MCCANN: Oh, I think they're going to be looking for trace evidence that will place perhaps that vehicle at any of the locations where murders have occurred. And also, then link either firearms or the people and the firearms to that car that can be co-located at the murders.

If you remember very early on in the investigation, it was buried by the coverage of the white trucks, but there were reports of a burgundy sedan. So, it has resurfaced now, and I think it's of major interest.

CALLAWAY: What is the next step in this investigation? Are we going to see a long wait by authorities before they tell us any more information on these individuals?

MCCANN: Because everything has been so critically reviewed and, you know, people have been watching this so closely, and fairly critical of the police handling of the investigation, either correctly or incorrectly, I think you're going to see a measured response, and they will release only information that they are positive.

CALLAWAY: Kelly, stay with me for just a moment. I want to get your reaction to some of the comments that we heard from Chief Moose late last night at a news conference that was held about 11:50 Eastern Time. And once again, we saw him communicate directly with the sniper.

Let's listen to what he had to say.


CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: You asked us to say -- quote -- "We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose" -- end quote.

We understand that hearing us say this is important to you. However, we want you to know how difficult it has been to understand what you want, because you have chosen to use only notes, indirect messages and calls to other jurisdictions.


CALLAWAY: Any reaction to what he had to say, not just that comment, but the other ones that we heard him say actually saying what the sniper had asked him to say?

MCCANN: Yes. There is a historical...

CALLAWAY: I believe we just lost Kelly. We will try to get Kelly back on the line with us to get his thoughts on this break this morning.


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